Editor’s Note: This article was created by Aura in partnership with DomesticShelters.org to help educate domestic violence victims, survivors, and professionals about how to stay safe when using technology. DomesticShelters.org partners only with companies creating products we’ve vetted.
For survivors and victims of abuse, or for those who fear their partner may want to monitor or control their behavior, understanding how to protect yourself while online shopping can help keep you safe in your offline lives. For example, if your data is leaked or becomes accessible to an ill-intentioned individual, someone you know or a hacker hiding behind a faraway screen can use that information to assert control, steal your identity or use your personal information to access and abuse your credit or finances.
Online shopping may be a convenient way to get a deal or find the perfect product, but because you must enter your credit card information, your home address, and other personal information, it also opens you up to more risk than an in-person purchase might.
That’s why intelligent safety company Aura teamed up with DomesticShelters.org to share tips to keep you safe while shopping online, resulting in better safety and privacy in your offline life.
Every year, phishing emails and websites get more realistic and more difficult to spot. Phishing scams are designed to present themselves as a trustworthy source when they actually intend to install malware or steal credit card data or login information. Once a hacker has gained access to your device or personal information, they can sell or share it on the internet, making it easier for an abuser to secure your information and use it to assert power or control.
To avoid falling victim to phishing scams, be skeptical about any email or text “offers” that you receive, or requests for urgent information or gift cards. Always double-check that URLs are legitimate before you click on them or submit your information. If you receive an email with a coupon or deal that seems too good to be true, it probably is.
Some retail websites are designed to look real but function as high-level phishing scams, which could be used by an abuser or another bad actor to steal your personal information, like an address, phone number or credit card, which could be used by an abuser or another bad actor to steal your personal information, like an address, phone number or credit card. Amazon, for example, has become the second most impersonated brand by online shopping scammers, according to the Better Business Bureau. To verify the credibility of a retailer you’ve never purchased from, look at user reviews. If it’s a known scam, has exorbitant shipping times or hidden fees, or the product delivered isn’t what is shown, other consumers will likely have written about these practices. Though, it’s also common for shopping scams to delete or bribe users to write only positive reviews and remove negative ones. Look for bad reviews, too. It’s unlikely that any retailer would have no negative reviews at all, so the absence of negative reviews may also serve as a red flag.
When choosing payment information for your online purchases, opt to use a credit card over a debit card where possible. Credit cards typically have more fraud protections in place when compared to debit cards, giving you additional protection in the case of a data breach or misuse.
No matter what website you’re shopping on, if your computer is infected with malware or ransomware, you are at risk. Install antivirus software that you trust and schedule frequent, automatic scans. Malware can be used by ill-intentioned individuals—including abusers—to track your location, online activity, and other personal information. For people living with an abuser, your safety can depend on understanding whether malware is on your device and whether your actions are being tracked. If you think an abuser installed the malware, take care to avoid removing malware if you aren’t sure if it’s safe to do so, as it could potentially set off an abuser. Consider keeping a mobile device or laptop in a safe, secure location where the abuser doesn’t have access to it, like a hiding spot or a trusted friend’s home.
When browsing social media, for example, sponsored content pops up, promoting a product you’re interested in purchasing. However, after you purchase the item, you never receive your order and can’t reach anyone at the “retailer” or find a confirmation email.
To avoid scams, be wary of sites offering products at significant discounts or that don’t use domains like .com, .org. or .net. Avoid websites using content or contact information that is found or copied from elsewhere. Don’t judge a retailer by their website—they can be created and taken down quickly. Also, avoid making purchases from unknown retailers via links sent by email or text message.
Clicking a link from an unknown source in an email or text message can cause malware to infiltrate your device, or potential compromise of your personal information, putting you and your safety at risk. If your security is compromised and your credit card or address becomes available online, it is also more accessible for an abuser who potentially seeks to exert financial control.
Aura has created a special offer for DomesticShelters.org: access a free two-week trial of Aura’s all-in-one intelligent digital security solution, and if you like it, purchase a subscription at 40 percent off. Use these links to try the Individual Plan, Couples’ Plan, or Family Plan with this special offer. DomesticShelters.org does not receive any compensation for purchases through this offer.
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